Challenged with creating a new video to attract tourists to the northern Spanish region of Leon, La Catedral Animation Studio opted for something a little different. Previous adverts focused on the imposing landscape, dramatic scenery and grand monuments of the area, but director Juan Carlos Mostaza chose to create a 3D animated short full of character.
"We wanted a very modern style and, at the same time one that was very simple. So, low-poly was the style we were looking for," says Mostaza. "The camera movement was very important because we tried to imitate a real camera. I love to use long shots with multiple actions at the same time while the camera travels from one to another like in the TV show ER."
The short mixes a mockumentary style in its camera shots with the colourful look associated with cartoons, for an arresting mix of styles. The team used Blender and render Cycles to create the entire sequence as it had some powerful tools, says Mostaza, "like the Sculpt mode was used extensively to create the mountains and all the environment."
The team had a lot of challenges, such as accurately recreating all the mountains and lakes of the region as faithfully as was possible in low poly animation. But one problem emerged from a previous solution.
Keep it on track
As much of the process as possible had been automated but one system, made with different modifiers to keep the train attached to the rail, caused problems during the production process.
Working procedurally, when the path was extended, the tracks were created and the train could travel over them just moving a controller. But one of the modifiers produced a problem and the train, which had a bone system inside, rotated on the wrong axis.
"We spent a couple of days solving this issue and finally we realised that if we had done the process in the classic way with keyframes animation, we would have spent less time creating the train scenes," confesses Mostaza. "So we learnt that sometimes it’s better to animate with keyframes instead of creating complex automatisations."
This article originally appeared in 3D World issue 181.